Who you are affects what you do

This IS really all you need to know!

This IS really all you need to know!

But wait! There’s more!

Josh Beckett begins the game by striking out Derek Jeter. Could there possibly be a better way to begin the season? (Okay, maybe if ARod was starting off and Beckett nailed him in the ass with a 96 mph fastball, but, really, that’s it.)  Beckett puts down the next two batters and we get an 1-2-3 top of the first.  This is going to be the fastest game in Red Sox/Yankees history!!  Beckett is totally throwing a no-hitter tonight!

Not so fast there, huh?

(Warning:  Extremely long post ahead!)

I'm extremely superstitious about taking photos of the Yankees.  So much so that by the time of the double steal I was furiously deleting any photos I took of them.  This is one that made the cut.

I'm extremely superstitious about taking photos of the Yankees. So much so that by the time of the double steal I was furiously deleting any photos I took of them. This is one that made the cut.

CC Sabathia…he knows how to throw strikes too.  And he does, using only 9 pitches to sit down the top of the Red Sox order.  Still, this is good.  Quick game, Beckett will pitch better than Sabathia!  Call the Cask because we’re going to be there early!

(I’m not joking when I tell you that briefly, ever so briefly, Kelly and I entertained the thought of being able to go out after the game and still be back at the hotel maybe before midnight.  It was a brief moment of beautiful insanity that we both laughed off quickly enough.  Little did we really know, though.)

Second inning and the chants of “De-rek Je-ter”, even though he struck out, can still be heard.  Scattered, “Let’s Go Yankees” chants make their way through the grandstand and all get quickly booed down.  (I hate that. Don’t boo.  Cheer for your team.  You boo and it sounds like you’re booing your team. )  Beckett gets two outs on six pitches (Down goes Slappy!!) and then proceeds to give up back to back home runs followed by back to back singles.  Okay, nothing to panic about.  Every pitcher has his “bad inning”, Josh is just getting his out of the way early.  A 2-0 score in the second is nothing.  While John Farrell visits the mound to tell Joshua Patrick just this, the “De-rek Je-ter” chants get louder as Captain Intangibles is approaching the plate.  Sadly, no one in the stands shouts down the chant until Beckett throws  his first pitch to Jeter (a 94 mph fastball called for a ball).    Jeter grounds out and we are spared any more Yankees jogging down the third base line.

While the teams are changing sides, Kelly motions for me to look at the scoreboard because she was, pretty much, speechless.

I don't know a lot about brain surgery but I DO know it's pretty friggin' amazing to have brain surgery and a month later be sitting at a baseball game.

I don't know a lot about brain surgery but I DO know it's pretty friggin' amazing to have brain surgery and a month later be sitting at a baseball game.

Not much is awe-inspiring these days.  Ryan Westmoreland being able to take in a baseball game when the possibility existed that he might not make it out of his surgery…that’s pretty damned impressive.  (Also impressive is the fact that Ryan and his family were in Theo’s box and that it seems the team is making sure he’s getting the best of care right here in Boston at the Spaulding Rehab.)  Without showing him again on the scoreboard, the Red Sox ran the same “welcome” message to Ryan many times during the game.

After wiping away tears, this is the point where I notice the folks around us.  Mostly Sox fans but a few scattered Yankees fans in the mix.  Most obviously was the guy a couple of row behind us yelling about how much each player “sucks” during the introductions and the guy across the aisle from me quietly gloating to his Sox fan girlfriend about how CC will “master” the Sox.  (Her response?  “You know you’re sleeping on the couch tonight, don’t you?”)  I also feel like this is a good time to defend Sox fans.  The Yankees fan behind us said something to his Sox fan friends the likes of “Why are the fans so quiet?”.  Now, I get that the  job of the fans is to be loud and show the team their support by doing so, but if I’m speaking for myself (and others I know like me) there comes a point where you’re so stunned by what is going on that making noise doesn’t come naturally and you need some 8 year-old boy screaming “LET’S GO RED SOX” in your ear to wake you up and remind you of what you’re supposed to do.  Watching Beckett give up back to back home runs to Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson was one such time.

We don’t  have much time to dwell, as Kevin Youkilis begin the bottom of the second with a double.  This is the Red Sox we know.  2-0 in the second inning is nothing!  Sox can come back from that lickity-split.  After Papi makes the first out (that moves Youk to third), Adrian Beltre welcomes himself to Boston with a sacrifice fly, 2-1 bad guys.  JD Drew ends the inning on CC’s eighth pitch to him which is a called strike.  Out of the 8 pitches he saw, he swung at 3 and 2 were called strikes, prompting a guy behind me to scream, “Does he EVER swing at strike 3???”  Good times.  But who cares, because it’s 2-1 and the Sox are coming back.  1-2-3 inning from Beckett coming right up.

A walk, a fly-out and a double-play later (how sweet is the sight of Slappy hitting into a double play, regardless of the score?) and Beckett is back, baby!

Nothing much happened in the fourth inning.  Nothing to see here, looky-loos.

The look on Josh's face is very telling.

The look on Josh's face is very telling.

Fine, fine.  If I have to I will mention the double steal.  There, are you happy?  Brett Gardner steals home when Derek Jeter stole second and Victor Martinez tried to throw him out.  Instead of focusing on the mind-numbing ridiculousness of trying to throw out the guy taking second when there is a guy on third, I’m going to mention something about Jeter that drives me bugshit:  The way he claps for himself when he gets on base.  I don’t know why it makes me stabby but it certainly does.  I guess it’s like his fistpumps.  If you do something outstanding I see showing enthusiasm for it.  But I am not convinced that after each bowel movement, Jeter pumps his fist and then claps like a six year-old.  As a matter of fact, here and now I’m changing his nickname to Clappy.  (Goes well with Slappy…they’re like bookends.  Annoying bookends.)

This isn’t to say he shouldn’t have been pleased with this particular turn of events.  It’s just something that has been bugging me for a while and this was a good time to bring it up.

I forgot to mention the “Hip Hip JORGE!” chants when Jorge hit his homer.  There, I mentioned it.  I hope everyone who chanted it gets scabies.

Back to the game.

At the end of the 4th inning, the score was 5-1 and Kelly turned to me and said very matter-of-factly, “5-1 in the fifth inning really isn’t that big of a deal.  I still think they can win this.”  Kelly O’Connor and I go to many games together (sometimes we actually even get to sit next to each other!!).  We’ve discovered that our attitudes in-game are complimentary.  It isn’t unheard of for one or both of us to get frustrated but we also both firmly believe our first job in the park is to support the team and we’re, undoubtedly, usually the most optimistic people in the park.  So when Kelly said she thought they could win, she meant it.  To say anything else would have been counter productive to what was going on.  (And, really, if you’ve watched this team and thought that they couldn’t come back in four innings from being only four runs downs, then I really don’t know what you’ve been watching.)

Between the fifth and eighth innings, the Yankees scored twice.  The Red Sox?  They scored eight times.  Eight.  So much for offense being the weakness for this team, eh?   Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz were the only Sox players to not have a hit Sunday night.  They, along with JD Drew and Mike Cameron were the only players to not have an RBI and Jacoby, Papi and Adrian Beltre were the only players who didn’t score a run.  Getting production like that out of 7 of the 9 guys in the lineup is pretty damn impressive.

I wore my Kevin Youkilis jersey (purchased last year in an effort to bury my pretend hatchet with him) to the game.  Youk went 3-4 for 2 RBI and a run scored (and all three hits were extra base hits…two doubles and a triple).  He’s currently batting .750 and making me look like a genius for putting him on my fantasy team. (Fine, I put him on my team because I’m a complete homer.  Pedroia, Drew, Buchholz and Varitek are on my team too.  I’m not proud.)

They like each other!  They really like each other!

They like each other! They really like each other!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  In the middle of the 7th it was 7-5.  (I’m skipping over pitching changes.  Let’s sum it up like this:  Schoeneweis, Bard and Papelbon earned their money Sunday night.  The rest of the bullpen makes me a little twitchy right now.)  Great, time for “God Bless America” and for me to try and keep from stabbing out my eardrums.  Much to my surprise, Steven Tyler (who looks a bit more healthy than he has in years past.  Amazing what a cheeseburger or two can do for you!) wasn’t as horrible as I expected (I dig Aerosmith but Tyler’s renditions of old-time classics leaves a little to be desired).  It was up-tempo and FAST.  And, for whatever reason, he got practically the whole park to sing along (I noticed during NESN’s replay of the game that Youk was even singing.  That’s no mean feat, Mr. Tyler,  Well done.).  While it isn’t my favorite song nor my favorite performer it was actually fun in the moment.

The 7th inning gave us Chan Ho Park, Damaso Marte and Joba Chamberlain.  It was an embarrassment of riches.  Park took the loss and gave up three runs on three hits (including Pedroia’s home run).  Marte didn’t give up any runs but he was victim to his own wild pitch and a Posada passed ball…setting the stage for Joba to enter the game and finish the inning.

Which brings us to the 8th inning.

The Sox scored three times in the bottom of the 7th and the Yanks didn’t score at all in the top of the 8th, so by the time we were going to sing “Sweet Caroline”, the Sox were up 8-7 and we knew Papelbon was in the bullpen waiting to close the door on the Yanks.  “Sweet Caroline” is always so much more fun to sing when the team is winning.  Sunday night was no different.

Okay, it was a little different.  When Neil Diamond comes walking out on the field to the opening strains of “Sweet Caroline” your brain freezes for a moment like it’s watching something it shouldn’t.  After seeing it on ESPN I can understand why folks watching it on television might have found it a bit cringe-worthy but I have to say it wasn’t like that at the park.  Neil tried doing his Branson version of “Sweet Caroline” but the fans wouldn’t have any of it and sang over him to the tune of the original recorded version.  The mix of Opening Night, the Yankees being in town, the Sox winning and Neil Diamond being right in front of our faces brought more enthusiasm to the song than I think I’ve ever heard before (and I was there for the Game One 2007 World Series version).  Sure Neil Diamond is the king of schmaltz, but sometimes schmaltz is fun!

Slight digression while I rant about “Sweet Caroline for a moment:

Regardless of the fact that the Red Sox co-opted it from us and do things like “sponsor” it and put the words up on the scoreboard, “Sweet Caroline” belongs to the fans. No one told us to start singing way back when…we just did. For two minutes or so in the middle of the 8th 38,000 + people are united as one doing nothing but singing, dancing and “touching hands”…why is this a bad thing?  Watch this video (taken from Sunday night and a much better representation of how the fans responded to the song than the version ESPN showed) and just freaking appreciate the fun.

We aren't usually singing "Sweet Caroline" at 11:30 at night.

We aren't usually singing "Sweet Caroline" at 11:30 at night.

It was about this time that we began to notice a lot of activity in the bleachers.  We were fortunate that both the Red Sox and Yankees fans in our section were more focused on the game (or leaving…as many did in the 8th…mostly Yankees fans but a few Sox fans as well.  Seriously?  You pay to go to Opening Night and leave when Jonathan Papelbon is coming in? ) than on wanting to fight but I fear that wasn’t the case in all parts of the park.  Still, save for the gal that cursed me out to start the evening, I never did come across any Yankees fans that I wanted to push down the stairs.

Because the 7th inning seemed to mark the moment when the fates began to love us again, we got Joba in the 8th as well!  Joba got the first out (a Drew ground out) and then things started to go south for the starter wannabe.  A single, a walk, a fly out and a single scored another run.  This caused some alarm for Kelly and I given that there were two outs and Victor Martinez was up.  See, Victor getting on base in any way set the stage for Joba to have to pitch to Youk.  You might remember there’s a little history there and, honestly, Joba already started to look like he was getting heated and we were genuinely concerned that if Youk got his at-bat there would be blood.  Fortunately (?) Youk never faced Joba because Victor flied out and ended the inning – but not before the Sox got an insurance run.

If there was any concern over how Paps would pitch in the ninth given how he pitched the last time he stepped foot on the mound in Fenway, you couldn’t tell it by his entrance.  As usual, the place went insane the moment the first notes of “Shipping Up to Boston” began.  Time heals all wounds.  Paps did his job (giving up a single to Posada but not before getting Slappy and Cano to make the first two outs.  Any threat went quickly away when Curtis Granderson ended the game with a ground out – and all of America got to see it happen live (if not on NESN than on ESPN2).  I love it when that happens.

Game 1 out of 162 was in the books, the Sox won and I was there.  As of this writing (3pm ET on Tuesday) the Red Sox are first place in the American League East.  Sure it’s meaningless in the long run but in the short term it’s pretty freaking sweet.

Leaving Fenway at Midnight singing "Joy to the World" and very happy!

Leaving Fenway at Midnight singing "Joy to the World" and very happy!

Beckett didn’t make it through five innings which certainly doesn’t make anyone happy…but I’m willing to give him this one game to shake off the cobwebs and come back in the next game to show us why the team signed him to that shiny new contract.

As it turns out, having Opening Night instead of Opening Day wasn’t all that bad.  The weather was amazing, the fans (at least where we sat) were well-behaved and we even got out at midnight (for those who thought the game went long, consider that it started just after 8 and ended just before midnight.  Our expectations were that it would start later than it did and end MUCH later than it did…so we were happy with how things turned out).

Now to focus on the rest of the series.  The mad Bobcat murderer takes on AJ Burnett.  I will, unfortunately, not be around to watch it live but I’m hoping that bodes well for Mr. Crabcakes.

Again, You can find the rest of my photos from the day at my Flickr account.

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